Why can't I walk away? (wife of ADD husband)

I’ve only just discovered this forum and it is frightening how many women are in a similar position to mine!

When I met my husband he was a loving, caring and attentive man. Sure, he was forgetful sometimes and okay, maybe not all his plans worked out but everyone has that now and then, right?
Wrong! The minute we got married, things went downhill. The sex evaporated almost overnight (we’d had a very regular sex life up to that point), his forgetfulness got worse and any initiative that he used to have just seemed to have drained out of him.

We were both in very busy jobs and although we had settled into a routine (after a lot of arguments, I basically told him that he was responsible for the hoovering and the washing up), he would *never* do anything outside of his “hoover and wash up” remit. He would only do things if I told/asked him to do them. If the dog had made a mess, he wouldn’t clean it up, claiming “he hadn’t seen it”, if I was ill (which rarely happened because I’m very hard on myself) he wouldn’t cook, he wouldn’t clean, heck, he wouldn’t even bring me a glass of orange juice until I’d kicked his ass and told him he was being a selfish jerk.

I was ready to throw in the towel after just a year of marriage but I felt I couldn’t walk away that quickly. Now I wish I had done.  At that time, we didn’t know he had ADD, that diagnosis came after a few more years of marriage. The turning point came when I told him I was ready to walk away because I was sick of feeling like a maid. All I seemed to be good for was cleaning, cooking and paying half the bills.
The sex had become non-existent which made me miserable too. I wasn’t allowed to touch him, or make the first move because “that put pressure on him to perform”, which meant that even little gestures were a no-no because he felt I was angling for sex (I wasn’t,  but there you go) and when we did have sex, it was over in less than a minute. I kid you not. He would finish when I was nowhere near and then that would be it. I talked to him about it *so* many times. I told him that I understood he might not always be able to control his own orgasm but that I would appreciate it if he made sure I had a good time too. He would say he didn’t know what to do, so I explained it to him. Over and over and over again. Nothing ever made a difference because the next time, it would be the same “wham, Bam, thank-you-Ma’am”.  I’ve bought him books, I pointed him to websites, I talked until the cows came home…nothing.

So, I told him I was done with him. He was shocked, didn’t understand where this came from (Really?? You mean all the arguments, all the “I feel completely unloved by you” didn’t give you any clues then??) and promised he’d try and be better. He made promises like that in the past and nothing ever came of it, so I told him that that ship had sailed. He said he wanted us to see a counselor. I said there was very little point to that because my feelings had taken such a beating, there was very little left of them.  In the end, we did go to counseling because I wanted to make sure I had done *everything* I could to save this marriage (despite the fact that it had always been me flogging the dead horse anyway, but there you go). So, we went to counseling and as I was telling the counselor all the things that upset me and bothered me about the way our relationship had evolved, she asked if DH had ADD.
That was a complete epiphany! We never realized there might be a neurological problem! So, DH went to a counselor of his own, got a psychiatrist and *finally* got diagnosed. He got medication and in that first year, things were fantastic! I had the guy back that I had fallen in love with! Needless to say, my old feelings for him returned and it was bliss!

After that first year, things slowly started reverting back to “the old ways” again. His medication was tinkered with and usually brought a small respite but other than that, I feel we’re back where we were when I was ready to leave.
I am so frustrated and so fed up. I feel I have wasted over a decade of my life on a relationship that only *I* seem to value. And the sad part is, I don’t even know *why* I value it anymore  The short bursts of ‘improvement’ always fills me with such hope, only to be crushed when I discover it’s not permanent. I have been the one to buy books about ADD, to encourage him to find a support group and to basically try and find a way for him to lead a relatively ‘normal’ life, yet he has done *nothing*.  He says he wants me to stay but he doesn’t make any effort to read the books or even meet me halfway.

We share a lot of the same interests, have the same tastes and do enjoy each other’s company but I want an equal partner. I don’t want to be his mother, or his secretary. I want someone I can depend on, who can take care of me on the odd occasion that I need my hand holding and I realize he will never be that man. I know *all* of this and yet, I can’t seem to walk away!! What is wrong with me??

*nothing* is wrong with you.

You are saving that you inside of you.What I mean is he is your dream man right!! or maybe was? but he has become so different with over time and time again.He was the man you loved so dearly and was and maybe still is,but then he changed,changed again and then you are left with the feelings of*hope* which I feel all the time.They are called "mixed feelings".Being in an ADHD relationship you would have repeated "mix feelings" feelings to stay/leave.But most of the time during that mix feeling the bad/good will pop up! and the good is almost tooo good to be true,and the bad,well it's way too bad,there is never any middle.We are stuck with feelings of wanting back the "hyper focused" which comes and go like flight- 69,but then one day that fuel will run out and that is what the ADHD spouses would never understand, b/c they are caught up in their little world of being poor self-observer's.Needless to say,I have been on flight 69,and my "mix feelings"has not only ran out of fuel but passengers also.I have had enough! I have been unloved,cursed,toss aside,chased,belittled,and so on,but I am still with him,and then what is wrong with me also?

Love is the most dangerous thing when it is genuine,not saying that they are not genuine also,it's just so sad that I am in love with someone who can't/won't give it back the way that I give it!

I am feeling sad and completely horrified by all this.


You're not alone

I feel exactly the same way. Some days I find the courage to walk away but then I stop myself and mostly because I feel sorry for him.  I'm not sure he manage to make it out there without help. I know that I'd find a way to make ends meet and all because I've done it all these years while picking up the pieces of his mess ups. Sometimes I feel like my life would be so less complicated without him. Actually I know it would be. I wonder if I'd be lonely but then remember all the times I was not alone but felt alone. Lately I've been so resentful that I find myself purposely being mean just so he'll leave me alone. Now I feel like I'm turning into him. I'm not liking myself anymore around him and want to be left alone. I also feel bad for our kids because he is not the father that any kid will brag about or be happy to see. Most days they don't even know where he is even if he's home.  I'm glad I found this site because now I know I'm not really alone either. There are plenty of other women going through the same thing.

If you were me, what would you do?


I could relate to you so much, as if I wrote this part of your posting:

"So, I told him I was done with him. He was shocked, didn’t understand where this came from (Really?? You mean all the arguments, all the “I feel completely unloved by you” didn’t give you any clues then??) and promised he’d try and be better. He made promises like that in the past and nothing ever came of it, so I told him that that ship had sailed. He said he wanted us to see a counselor. I said there was very little point to that because my feelings had taken such a beating, there was very little left of them."

I guess I am in your shoes at that time when you decided to go for counseling for the first time. My DH is diagnosed with ADHD, but he is in denial of the fact that he has it, and also the impact of his condition on our marriage. Our 1 year of marriage was downhill from day 1, just like yours, and I just could not continue my painful life anymore. I made him leave the house a month ago, and now he is blaming me that I bailed out too soon without trying anything. Basically all of my efforts to understand his odd behaviors meant nothing to him.

He wants marriage counseling, but I am opposed to it. He does not know what is wrong with our marriage, and I don't think he can change because he does not know what to change.

I am already shut down. I am just so burned out. I just want to walk away from the whole mess. I just saw no point of pursuing counseling when there is no hope of salvaging my marriage any more. But at the same time I am feeling guilty that I did not even have a single session of marriage counseling before deciding to split. I have been talking to a counselor on my own, but DH and I haven't done any marriage counseling together. Did I not try hard enough? Did I not try everything I could do? Am I giving up too easily as my DH says? 

  DesperateSoul, I am so



I am so sorry for all the things that you are going through!

I couldn't possibly advise you what to do because I don't know the ins and outs of your life. However, the fact that your husband has been diagnosed with ADHD but refuses to accept - and work with - that diagnosis, would make me run for the hills. Why should *you* be doing marriage counseling when *he* refuses to acknowledge part of the problem might be him? 

My husband and I went to marriage counseling *before* we knew he had ADHD. As soon as the idea was planted that he might have ADHD, we made sure he went to see a psychiatrist. When he was officially diagnosed and started on medication, we stopped going to counseling because all the problems we had were caused by his ADHD. The meds really helped. 

I don't know if you're giving up too easily because I don't know what your life has been like but I *do* know how utterly exhausting, frustrating and soul-destroying it can be to live with someone with ADHD. I know there are people on this forum who have found a way of dealing with it, either through prayer or "letting go of the anger" but that doesn't work for me. I recognize a lot in what you say when you say you are burned out and that you've already shut down. I was once at that point and I stayed because I thought I could cope with his ADHD. It turns out, I don't think I can. I think your husband is hurling some emotional blackmail your way and I don't think that's fair. Please don't be guilt-tripped into staying. If you feel you have reached the end of your tether, so be it. 

What would need to change for you to *want* to stay in the marriage? Have you discussed that with your husband? 

Purely based on personal experience, if I knew then what I know now, I would have left and I would not have regretted it. But that's hindsight for you.  




Thank you


Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. You raised a good point there -- What would need to change for you to *want* to stay in the marriage? My answer is "for my husband to turn back into the man I felt in love with". After I learned about his ADHD, I realized that the man I decided to marry was only his hyperfocus phase. The warm-hearted charming guy with adoring eyes for me was completely gone in no time and never to be seen again. My DH firmly believes that he is still the same person, but only behaving differently "temporarily" due to his stressful job. He always give me series of excuses for his anger outburst, low patience, lack of drive to achieve anything and I am just sick of it.

He has been on meds for the past 6 months, but I don't see changes in his behaviors and attitude. I wonder if he does not have ADHD after all as he always insists? Whether it is ADHD or not, whatever his "condition" is, he shows mild symptoms of all ADHD-like behaviors and it is destroying our marriage. He says ADHD might be just a small portion of our problems. He says our marriage is in trouble because of our communication issue attributed to my "narrow-minded tunnel vision with inflexibility" to accept him as who he is. Whenever we talk to address issues, it is the same endless arguments over and over, because I want to see sign of changes in him first before I can open up again, and he wants to see sign of openness in me first before he can change. One has to give in first, if not both. 

I want him in his hyper-focus phase back in order to continue this marriage. I don't think it is ever possible. Maybe he only existed in my imagination. My biggest fear is that I don't know what kind of person my husband is any more. I don't know who I am married to any more.

Marginal, you say that you cannot cope with ADHD, and yet you cannot walk away either. How are you managing your anger and frustration now? How are you surviving? 

  DesperateSoul, I feel



I feel exactly the same when it comes to what it would take for me to stay in the marriage. I, too, want the guy back that I fell in love with. With the help of meds etc, there are glimpses of him, and I treasure those times, but on the whole, it is *nothing* like before we married and that makes me very sad. 

I also get all the excuses about why he's not paying me any attention or why he's being a bit of a jerk. Usually they're always the same excuses that get rotated. Busy at work, Not slept very well, Not feeling so good etc etc. It's always the same. 

The fact that you haven't noticed any difference despite him having been on meds for the last 6 months is interesting. Is he really taking his meds? And if so, has he spoken to his doc about maybe changing his meds? I know it took a bit of tinkering with different medications/doses for my husband to settle down on the right mix for him. I think you are right when you say that you realize that what you want (Mr Hyperfocus back 24/7) is unlikely to happen. So that might be a good starting point for you. If those are the conditions you need in order for your marriage to work, it seems unlikely it will work if you get back together again. 

As for how I am surviving? Day by day really. I focus on things I like doing, see my friends, go for coffee, take walks etc etc. And when things get really bad, I imagine walking out and buying a place for myself and living there in blessed peace :) At the moment, my husband is really trying again and although I appreciate it, it also makes me wary because when he *does* try, it's good. It's better than good, it's great. But it never lasts and it just makes the flip-side so much harder to bear. It's the true ADHD rollercoaster and it's exhausting! When things are bad, I am *convinced* I need a divorce but then when we're doing well, I feel like I'm overreacting with my talk about divorce. It's really quite complicated. 

I think the fact that your husband has already moved out is quite significant I think. I doubt that I would still be married if I had moved out when I said I was going to. 




My husband, also, says that

My husband, also, says that our biggest marriage problem is our communication issue, and he refuses to acknowledge the effect of ADHD on our relationship.  I agree that communication is a problem, but I have different reasons than my husband for thinking so.  He doesn't like it that communication is often challenging; I don't like it that he won't talk about any of the big issues (finances, his not looking for a job) because it pains him.  My sense is that his vision of ideal communication would be us talking every day about things that don't matter to us personally.

wife of ADD husband

I'm glad to find this Web. My husband was diagnosed with ADD a few months after our wedding . After reading your story I realized that I'm not the only one with a sexless marriage. Like you, at the moment that we got married the sex  stopped. Like you, he would do things almost only if I asked him to do them. Like you, I was feeling like a maid or  his mom . If he's doing anything like watching TV, on the computer, whatever, I lose his attention. He does not like to socialize too much, only if he's in the mood because  he get tired of people easily. I'm lucky that he is very responsible at work. But he usually get tired of it too and for that reason he works as an independent construction worker , he keep working and moving with different companies and locations, that helps a lot. Well, we have 6 years of marriage. At the beginning was very difficult for both because we did not understand what was going on. I encouraged him to get help during our firsts months of marriage. Was difficult because he refused to go. Finally, he did it. He was diagnosed, the medication did not work for him , he got frustrated and gave up the treatment. I also thought about quitting my marriage but like you, I wanted to try and give my best in the relationship. I began looking for ADD information and learned more about it. That was the moment that I began to understand him. I shared with him all this info and he also began to try his best to deal with it. He started on fish oil supplements after reading about it's benefits and let me tell you that he is more focus , we can see positive changes. I support him like a couch. Our marriage improved. We are like a good team. We love each other. About the sex, he tried to get help with the psychiatric, sexologist, urologist, medications, lab test....nothing work! We still sexless. That is hard for me, because he does not feel the desire and I have to suppress mine. Also, I quite my job to follow him, due to his job, because at first he was traveling all the time and we only saw each other once a month or so, so we both were agree on that to  live and travel together.  Well my marriage is not perfect with an ADD spouse, I miss and need the sex life , I miss having a stable and normal life without being moving all the time far from home, but I  try to enjoy our journey and besides his ADD he is a great husband. I'm  lucky that I can say that I love my ADD  spouse , that he is a good provider, responsible and has a good heart. I wish you the best, thanks for sharing your story. I don't believe that there is something wrong with you, you tried your best, marriage is a team, I'm lucky that my husband accept the challenge to battle with  his ADD and works with our relationship. But if not, the story would be different. I understand you.